Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Crisis of Living

I was directed to the Globe and Mail opinion piece by a tweet by a journalism professor. The piece? The Crisis of Living Too Long.

He was right. It was a good piece of writing but a bit too maudlin for my liking. The author tells us that she and her husband aim to "stockpile sleeping pills" as they get deeper into their senior years. I suppose today suicide is an option for those finding life too tough. But it wasn't always so.

When my dad died, suicide was not a good way to leave this world of blood, sweat, toil and tears. For one thing, killing oneself left one's life insurance in question. It left one's spouse and children possibly in a tougher-than-need-be financial crisis.

My dad had a poor heart but excellent doctors. He endured coronary after coronary and after a stay in the hospital he was back home, gulping nitroglycerin pills and waiting for the next major heart attack, the next trip to the hospital and the trip home.

After his last attack, life threw him a changup. He suffered a stroke instead of a heart attack. He lost the sight in one eye, all was a blur. He found himself forced to have one lens of his glasses completely frosted. If he wasn't wearing his glasses, he wore an eye patch. He took no pleasure in his new I'm-a-pirate look. I believe he felt humiliated.

He sold his car. His first new car in decades. It was a small, four-door, Vauxhall with leather seats. It broke his heart to part with that car. But the stroke that damaged his vision also left him slightly paralyzed on one side. The car had to go. In one sense, it was not a big loss as he no longer had a job. The car had become just an expense, a drain on the family finances.

One morning my dad appeared at the breakfast table in his best blue suit. He wore a bright, almost jaunty, tie held firmly in place by a fancy, gold clip. His white shirt was pressed with just the right amount of sleeve extending below the cuffs of his suit jacket. His patent leather Oxfords were perfectly polished. Not a scuff to be seen.

His bald head glistened from the Wildroot used to slick back the dozen or so long hairs he carefully tended. Those hairs were all that protected him from facing the fact he was bald. The world saw him as bald; he saw himself as thinning.

Dad had his usual bacon and eggs breakfast with two pieces of well-buttered toast. He mopped up the dark orange-yellow yolk with a scrap of toast, downed the last dregs of his peculator-brewed coffee, kissed both me and my mother good-bye and walked out of our home and out of our lives.

My dad died in the Prince Edward Hotel.
That was the last either of us saw my dad. Apparently, he took the bus downtown, checked into the Prince Edward Hotel and died. His heart pills, mostly nitroglycerin, were found sitting on the dresser on the other side of the room from the bed in which he was found.

It appeared my dad had died shortly after leaving home but we'll never know for sure. His body was found by the hotel cleaning staff. The hotel called the police, the police, using the information on his pill bottles, called his heart doctor and he, in turn, called us. His doctor identified the body, filled out all necessary forms, and contacted the funeral home.

My dad had a closed coffin, as he wished. Neither my mom nor I ever saw my dad's dead body. His death was from natural causes, a major coronary event unmitigated by medication. His doctor claimed that his death had come so suddenly, so quickly, with such power he had been unable to reach his pills left on the side of the room from where he had stretched himself out seeking relief from the pain.

My dad's death is a story that could be told as I've told it and then left, but to do so would be to tell an incomplete story. My dad died the way he had lived. He was born ill. His mother blamed a sick cow used to provide all the milk given the newborn. In his twenties he had three fourths of his stomach removed: ulcers. In his thirties had had hernias: numerous hernias. He had gall bladder, appendix, bowel operations and more. His health issues in old age, if dying in one's early 60s is old age, were a continuation of health problems that plagued him his whole life.

I'm ending this with a wonderful bit of advice from Monty Python's Life of Brian. And yes, I have considered the jarring note added by this song written by Eric Idle. But, please trust me, as a fellow alive only thanks to my second pacemaker I take great pains to smile. I see no hotel room in my future.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

It's NOT Baby Aspirin; it's low-dose.

As children stopped taking Aspirin, Reye's syndrome almost disappeared.
Reye's syndrome posed a danger to children when I was young. It was rare but lethal. Today? We rarely hear of Reye's. Why? The relationship between Aspirin (ASA), its use in children and Reye's syndrome was recognized.

The orange-flavoured chewable labeled Baby Aspirin disappeared from drugstore shelves. The powerful drug is now known as low-dose Aspirin.

And yet, today, we still encounter folk using the former name. Even doctors are known to fall into the trap, referring to low-dose Aspirin by it now out-dated-for-a-reason moniker. What puzzles and appalls me is that journalists, those purveyors of truth and accuracy constantly get the name wrong. Where are the editors? In forced retirement, I'd guess.

Aspirin is a drug, a powerful drug and, as with all powerful drugs, taking it comes with risks as well as rewards. If one is healthy, taking even a low-dose Aspirin once a day has always been a questionable practice. As they say: "If it isn't broken, don't fix it."

That said, if you get your medical knowledge from the main-stream media, you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise. The media has a history of presently the taking of low-dose Aspirin as relatively innocuous, almost risk free. To underscore this point, the media often refer to low-dose Aspirin as Baby Aspirin. What could be safer?
This is NOT news. The recent report simply confirms common concerns.

The media should not link babies and Aspirin for the same reason that Bayer changed the name: it was found that parents, especially new parents, thought the low-dose product was made for use by children and infants. It's not. Not today.

I take low-dose Aspirin and it  frightens me. As the Harvard Medical School pointed out:

If taking Aspirin was risk free, it might make sense for everyone worried about heart disease to take it. But Aspirin does have risks.

It can potentially lead to hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding inside the brain). In the stomach, Aspirin can aggravate bleeding ulcers. Severe gastrointestinal bleeding can be lethal.

Aspirin is NOT for babies nor children no matter how low the dose. Nor is taking Aspirin completely risk free even for healthy, adult folk. It's a powerful drug and deserves to be treated as one.

I knew that. How? Because my doctors made the risks associated with taking a daily low-dose Aspirin very clear to me. Why doesn't my daily newspaper, and the rest of the MSM, get the story right? It's not difficult and it would lessen the danger of children mistakenly being given low-dose Aspirin.